Malthus for the twenty-first century (PDF)
Population and Development Review 24(2): 309-316
Publication date: 1998
Should Malthus be retired, the alarms set out in his Essay on Population (first published 200 years ago) having been noted and acted upon, even though belatedly and by "vice" rather than prudence? Arguably no: much of his thinking retains current relevance, both where it seems on target and where it is blinkered. Examples are Malthus on the state and society, on distribution, and on nature. Civil and political liberty and a fairly minimalist state (public education favored, social security not) was his recipe for prosperity--still relevant for today's impoverished states and predatory regimes. The notorious 1803 passage on "nature's feast" might find echoes in the present international system. And Malthus's treatment of the exploitation of nature as an economic not an aesthetic or ethical matter has many modern parallels. In an Essay transposed to the present, just as Malthus paid little attention to the stirrings of industrial revolution in his time, we may ourselves be blind to the social, technological, and environmental forces that will shape the economic and demographic course of the next century.